Friday, August 30, 2019

"Null Set"

S. L. Huang has a math degree from MIT and is a weapons expert and professional stuntwoman who has worked in Hollywood on Battlestar Galactica and a number of other productions. Her novels include the Cas Russell series (formerly known as Russel's Attic), which begins with Zero Sum Game.

Huang applied the Page 69 Test to Null Set, her new Cas Russell novel, and reported the following:
Null Set is a science fiction thriller, so page 69, being a pause for conversation between two characters, isn’t a perfect representation of the book as a whole. For that, you’d need a little more action and gun fighting.

But the heart of the conversation on page 69 is something that very much does represent the series and character arcs. And that’s my snarky, isolated protagonist’s decision to trust her friend with the plan she’s settled on:
There were plenty of good reasons not to tell Arthur what I was working on, the first and foremost of which was that there was a better than even chance he’d side with Checker and try to stop me.

Arthur had tried to stop me from doing things a couple of times in the past, and I’d always plowed right through his moral stance with a nice fuck-you and done them anyway. It usually resulted in people getting killed.

He was a hard man to read, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to keep tolerating it. I’d promised him I’d try to stop doing that shit.
After this internal reflection, my main character does something we haven’t seen her do before. Instead of playing her cards close to the vest, even from her friends—which is her usual MO—she finally decides to get Arthur’s opinion of her plan before going forward with it. And ask for his help.

Of course, there wouldn’t be a book if that meant everything got to go right for her. But at least it’s a step in the right direction!
Visit S. L. Huang's website.

The Page 69 Test: Zero Sum Game.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 29, 2019

"Relative Fortunes"

Born near Boston, Marlowe Benn grew up in an Illinois college town along the Mississippi River. She holds a master’s degree in the book arts from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in the history of books from the University of California, Berkeley. A former editor, college teacher, and letterpress printer, Benn lives with her husband on an island near Seattle.

Benn applied the Page 69 Test to Relative Fortunes, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Relative Fortunes finds my protagonist, Julia Kydd, negotiating a tricky lunch conversation with the trustee of her estate, her older half-brother, Philip. They’ve just come from a rancorous legal meeting in which Philip, whom she barely knows, has challenged her imminent inheritance. She finds his droll, quixotic manner hard to read, but the threat he poses to her financial independence is very serious.

On this page they are pestered by real-life Willard Huntington Wright, author of a wildly popular mystery series in the 1920s and 30s published under the pseudonym of S. S. Van Dine. The books feature a sleuth named Philo Vance, a brilliant but insufferable character who—in my novel—Wright wishes to model on Philip.

A dissipated misanthrope, Wright is cynically determined to exploit the popular appetite for detective fiction, hoping only to earn boatloads of cash. Philip resists Wright’s plan, dismissing it as “sleuthing twaddle.” This minor subplot is my bit of meta-textual fun: one work of fiction tugging on the sleeve of another.

Their spat allows Julia to reflect on the nature of sleuthing, as she’s recently agreed to help her friend Glennis investigate the apparent suicide of her older sister, the radical suffragist Naomi Rankin.
...Julia shared [Philip’s] irritation with the term, shouted nowadays by cheap magazines everywhere to sell cheap novels. She didn’t particularly care if Wright’s literary aspirations poached upon Philip’s so-called deductive exploits, but she did agree that—for those bored with séances and scavenger hunts—“sleuthing” reduced to a game the serious work that she and Glennis had solemnly resolved to do. Their investigation might not involve theft or murder (Glennis’s hyperbole aside) or even probably the law, but it was nothing to joke at. Naomi Rankin deserved, if not justice, at least for the truth of her fate to be known.
My sentiments exactly.
Visit Marlowe Benn's website.

My Book, The Movie: Relative Fortunes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

"The Truth Behind the Lie"

Sara Lövestam is a Swedish novelist, born in 1980 and living in Stockholm. She writes in many genres — historical novels, Y/A, crime — but her books all deal with deeply human struggles, such as challenging perspectives, dealing with alienation, and being true to oneself. Lövestam worked for many years as a Swedish teacher for immigrants, and says a lot of her inspiration comes from her students. She enjoys music, carpentry, and learning new languages.

Lövestam applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Truth Behind the Lie, and reported the following:
I'd say page 69 is fairly representative of the novel. On this page, Kouplan, the paperless refugee taking on a PI case, meets with Pernilla who has hired him to search for her missing daughter Julia, and they visit a church where Pernilla would tell Julia to go if she was ever lost.

Kouplan works Pernilla's case at the same time as he's hiding from the Swedish police looking to send him back to Iran. That threat is always in the back of his mind, and he always strives to look "like a citizen". On page 69, this shows:
Janus sees him first. The dog is ridiculously happy to see him and when Kouplan bends down to receive a few slobbering dog kisses, he feels safe. A man greeting a blond woman's excited dog - what can be less suspicious than that?
Another aspect that characterizes this book is Kouplan's innovative methods, as he doesn't have access to the same tools as a professional PI or the police. He is forced to solve his case without money, connections or even a car. Page 69:
Kouplan is studying the church doors. They are big and heavy and might be hiding a child behind them.

"Have you checked the windows?"

Most of the enormous windows of the church are high over their heads. Two are within reach if you stand on one of the backs of the benches.
Visit Sara Lövestam's website.

Writers Read: Sara Lövestam.

My Book, The Movie: The Truth Behind the Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

"The Other’s Gold"

Named for Iowa but born and raised in Wisconsin, Elizabeth Ames is a writer living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, Ames has lived in Seattle, France, and Rwanda since leaving the Midwest. She currently lives in a Harvard dormitory with her husband, two children, and a few hundred undergraduates.

Ames applied the Page 69 Test to The Other’s Gold, her debut novel, and reported the following:
The Other’s Gold follows Alice, Ji Sun, Margaret and Lainey from when they meet as college freshmen through their early years as new parents, and is structured around the worst mistake made by each friend during this intense, transformative time. Page 68 lands right at the end of part I (page 69 is the title page for Part II), and is indeed representative of the book as a whole. Alice has just shared her darkest secret, a mistake she made in childhood with consequences that will follow her forever, and the four become blood brothers/moon sisters, poking blood from their fingers with the burnt tip of a “Not My President” pin:
They were locked together in this new way, by blood, by Alice’s secret, her worst act. They’d sworn in blood under the moon to keep Alice’s secret, and in this way they vowed to keep future secrets, too.

Alice didn’t tell them what had enraged her enough to push. She knew they might have ideas from their own childhoods. It seemed to Alice the only way she could atone at all, to try not to make her friends see this puppy of a man as a wolf of a boy.

None of them were afraid of her, not even for a second, and this Alice must have sensed when they held her in their arms. They hadn’t known twelve-year-old Alice, but they loved her, and if they had been on that bench with her, they might have pushed her brother, too.

But in this fearless embrace there was a bit of gratitude, too, a feeling that Alice had gone out ahead and done the worst thing, a child’s belief that none of them would ever hurt anyone so much.
The four are perched together in this moment, at the end of their childhoods and on the precipice of their adult lives. What Alice shared has forced them to reorganize their ideas of what it means to be good and do bad, categories that grow only more complex as they go on to make their own mistakes and do harm themselves, all the while still believing themselves to be both the person who did that harm, and the one who would never.
Visit Elizabeth Ames's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 26, 2019

"The Hard Stuff"

David Gordon holds an MA in English and Comparative Literature and an MFA in Writing, both from Columbia University, and has worked in film, fashion, publishing and pornography. He is the author of The Serialist, which won the VCU/Cabell First Novel Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award, and Mystery Girl, as well as a short story collection, White Tiger on Snow Mountain.

His books in the Joe the Bouncer Series are The Bouncer (2018) and the newly released The Hard Stuff.

Gordon applied the Page 69 Test to The Hard Stuff and reported the following:
The Hard Stuff is the second in a series about Joe Brody, an ex-Special Forces operative who now works as a bouncer in a Mafia-owned strip club in Queens. Kicked out of Harvard, then the military, he lives with his grandmother, reads a lot, minds the door at his childhood friend Gio’s club, and seems to live a pretty simple life. However, when the most powerful crime bosses in New York need help, he is the person they call on - a “sheriff” for those who can’t call the police. In The Bouncer, he was asked to catch a band of terrorists about to launch a biological attack. In this scene, from page 69 which opens chapter 11, Joe is being driven to a secret meeting by Gio. A group of the highest ranking members of the underworld - including Italian, Russian, Latin, African-American, Chinese and even Hasidic-Jewish gangsters – are gathering, and need a place where they will be safe from prying eyes and ears. So they meet at the top of a tower under construction to offer Joe a new mission: someone is smuggling pure heroin into New York from Afghanistan and using it to fund terror overseas. Here is the text of page 69:
They drove to Long Island City, a onetime industrial wasteland, first transformed into an art colony and then recolonized by the new corporate towers that now populated the riverfront of this westernmost bit of Queens. They rode down a potholed road, to be repaved no doubt when the half-built skyscraper it led to was complete. It stood now exposed in its raw form, sheathed in glass from the waist down, its upper half a skeleton of steel. On the jagged top, a crane perched, like a gigantic beak or robotic claw. Standing in the barren construction site, it dominated the landscape like a fortress dropped here from space. The western sun lit the glass in a blaze of red and gold and orange. It glittered like a half-hatched dragon climbing from its shell. A guy in a yellow hard hat and orange vest opened the gate as they arrived, then chained it behind them. Gio’s family owned the trucking and concrete companies working on the site and also controlled the union electricians and ironworkers and, through a shell corporation, held a sizable stake in the real estate on which it stood, which they’d bought up as polluted badlands. But work here had ceased for the day, and….
I do think this represents the book well, though perhaps in an odd way. With The Bouncer, I actually had to cheat a bit, and not use the whole page, since page 69 contained a spoiler. Here it is setting the scene, so there’s not a lot of action or dialogue, but this mixture of realistic detail with strange and mysterious events is very much the mood I hope to establish in these books: a New York that feels true to me - working-class, outer-borough, full of diverse street-life – but that also contains a darker, weirder and wilder world in its depths. The chained fence you pass might just contain a boring construction site, or it might hide a meeting of criminal masterminds - who knows?
Visit David Gordon's blog.

Writers Read: David Gordon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 24, 2019

"The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep"

H.G. Parry is a fantasy writer based in Wellington, New Zealand. Her short fiction has appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and small press anthologies. She holds a PhD in English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington, and teaches English Literature, Film, and Media Studies. Parry lives in a book-infested flat by the beach, which she shares with her sister, three guinea pigs, and two over-active rabbits.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 takes place shortly after Rob and Charley have just fallen through a wall to a secret Victorian street hidden in the middle of their city. Not only does this street look like an illustration from a Dickensian novel, it’s populated by various different book characters, including a violent Heathcliff and five Mr Darcys. Their leader is the only character among them to have been read out by Charley himself: her name is Millie Radcliffe-Dix, a girl detective from a series of children’s adventure books. (I made Millie up, but I based her on the children from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books and a little on Nancy Drew.) Charley read Millie out a long time ago, though, and – as Rob notes to his confusion – she’s no longer a child:
The woman I was seeing was a force of nature: a hurricane that pats you on the back sympathetically as it blows you over. She wasn't real – I'd seen her come out of a book, or Charley's head, or both. And yet somehow, impossibly, she'd grown up.
The rest of the page is a tumble of questions, and the only one that gets answered is the one about the lamppost, because I have an idiotic sense of humour:
“Awfully sorry about Heathcliff,” Millie said. “He's not really a very stable manifestation. We think he's a post-colonial reading – or perhaps he just misses the fictional moors. Either way, he's certainly very angry all the time. And they're all on edge at the moment, with everything that's been going on.”

“That's all right,” I said, lamely. The rush of adrenaline from facing Heathcliff was starting to catch up with me: I was shaking, and hoped the other two hadn't noticed. Her words caught up to me a moment later. “What's been going on?”

“Where did this place come from?” Charley asked from the window seat. He was barely able to tear his eyes from the scene outside. I couldn't see anything from where I sat, but I could hear the sound of footsteps over the cobbles, and the murmur of voices rising from below. “Who made it? And who's that helping Heathcliff pick up the lamppost?”

“The White Witch,” Millie said, and I thought of the alarmingly tall woman in white leather. “She's good with lampposts. I don't know if anyone made the Street; none of us do. I wondered if you'd made it.”

“No,” he said. “I wish I had. None of this comes from me – only you, I suppose, but that was a long time ago.”

Millie shrugged. “Well, it's jolly useful, and it's ours now. What on earth are you two doing here?”

Charley started to answer, but I interrupted.

“Look, I'm sorry, but you can't be Millie Radcliffe-Dix. You can't be. She was a little girl – I saw her. And these things – the things my brother makes – don't grow like human beings. Do they?” I turned to Charley for confirmation, but he only shrugged helplessly.

“I – I don't think so. I never kept one out of their books for long enough to see...”
So: mysteries, hidden streets, literary in-jokes, grown-up girl detectives, and impossibilities. Rob is on the defensive, Charley only cares about books and magic, and Millie takes the whole thing in her stride. This also touches on the idea of interpretation, which is central to the book: as postcolonial Heathcliff shows, the focus is on the power of the reader to shape the text they read. So yes, this is definitely a good glimpse of what the book contains, though I’m amazed Rob and Charley managed to get through a page without obviously fighting.
Visit H.G. Parry's website.

Writers Read: H. G. Parry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Our War"

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, Craig’s novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film.

DiLouie applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Our War, and reported the following:
Published by Orbit, Our War is a dystopian thriller about a brother and sister forced to fight as child soldiers on opposite sides of a second American civil war, and the people whose lives they touch: a UNICEF worker, a journalist, and a commander in a local militia.

On page 69, Gabrielle, who arrived in a besieged Indianapolis to assess humanitarian needs for the United Nations, visits the Peace Office, a Quaker church dedicated to helping to reunite families separated by the siege lines. Aubrey, a local journalist, has taken her there. Forced to play “fixer”—a local who helps journalists navigate a foreign place while they investigate news stories—for Gabrielle, Aubrey is chafing at being out of the action but hopes the UNICEF operative will lead her to good stories. Eventually, they will discover a horrifying fact: Local militias are using children as porters, cooks, runners, even fighters on the front line. Together, they will try to expose and stop it.

This page is representative of the novel in how it shows that civil war is 98 percent survival and 2 percent fighting. It also shows that a second American civil war would look far more like the Bosnian War in the 1990s than the first American civil war in the 1860s. Civilians would do most of the fighting, and the fighting would be everywhere as “red” rural areas turned against “blue” urban areas. Everybody would fight, nobody would win, and as this visit to the Peace Office shows, the war’s biggest losers would be the innocent.
Visit Craig DiLouie's website.

Writers Read: Craig DiLouie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

"Shrouded Loyalties"

Reese Hogan loves nothing more than creating broken relationships in broken worlds. With a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in journalism, Hogan has spent the last twenty years honing her craft by taking classes, listening to podcasts, and attending writing workshops and critique groups. She is passionate about music, especially alternative and punk rock, and believes that art can reach out in a way no other form of communication can. She lives with her family in New Mexico.

Hogan applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Shrouded Loyalties, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a pivotal moment in Shrouded Loyalties—it is the scene referenced on the back when Blackwood and Holland first meet with unscrupulous scientists who want to investigate the strange marks they received on their skin in the submarine accident:
Seeing whether you survive is only the first step. With those words, Blackwood realized the horrible truth. They didn’t care. Despite Doctor Zurlig knowing her as a child, despite everything Blackwood had done for the Belzene military, they were more concerned with using those marks of theirs. Maybe they wanted them to survive—but they didn’t necessarily expect them to. They were more interested in the outcome of the experiment than in keeping either of them alive. And her duty, as an officer in the navy, was to offer up her body to those ends.
As you might expect, this is a huge decision-making moment for Mila Blackwood. She feels responsible for the life of Holland, her subordinate, but also feels loyalty to her government. Her allegiances are being torn in two. This is absolutely representative of the rest of the novel, where loyalties are tested at every turn and characters are forced into decisions without easy answers. And—as you know if you’ve read the back cover copy—her trust in Holland is misplaced, in that he’s actually working for the enemy’s government. So you have the added tension of seeing whether Blackwood will go against her government to unknowingly protect someone who’s trying to harm her country. These layers of deception are intertwined throughout the whole novel, and this page is a great example of this complicated relationship.
Visit Reese Hogan's website.

My Book, The Movie: Shrouded Loyalties.

Writers Read: Reese Hogan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"The Gossamer Mage"

What is magic? As imagined by Julie E. Czerneda, it’s wild and free, a force of nature and source of wonder. She first explored this theme in her Night’s Edge series, starting with the award-winning Turn of Light. In The Gossamer Mage, Czerneda goes further, envisioning magic not only as integral to landscape and history, but well aware what we’re doing with it. That tie between us and other, the profound changes we make by connecting, have always informed her work, be it fantasy or science fiction.

Czerneda applied the Page 69 Test to The Gossamer Mage, her twentieth novel published by DAW Books, and reported the following:
What fun this is, to pick one page and see what it says, or doesn’t, about the entire book. In this case, page 69 of Mage is the first sign there are several layers to what magic is in the realm of Tananen, hinting the way magic moves through it and The Deathless Goddess is far more complex than those who live here believe. Cil, who has used magic to kill the other inhabitants of his village out of spite, finally pays Her price for it.

From page 69:
Cil aged no better than he lived, his body shrinking in on itself, growing shriveled and more deformed, cheeks caving in, hands become wizened claws. The men holding him let go in horror, but only when the Designate ended their kiss did he fall.
Yet there’s a hint of something more…
Saeleonarial blinked. Had he seen a faint plume of ash as the sad corpse met the ground? Before he could be sure, a breeze danced through silks, tugged his beard, and whisked away any trace of glittering bronze.
Such ash is left when something made of magic ends its intended lifespan or is killed. There shouldn’t be any left from the corpse of a man. Ah, but that’s a clue.

The creatures, the gossamers, Cil created to destroy the hapless villagers? Without him, without his spite and fury, they are set free, to again be wonders.
The waiting monsters lifted their heads. The long ones closed their eyes and burrowed head first into the ground…The made-flies rose in a swarm...the sun sparkling on their tiny wings so it seemed for an instant that the air itself shimmered…
Which is what, before Cil, gossamers have been. Accidents, wonders, marvels who have nothing to do with us except the occasional sly trick. What was different here?

A turning point, this page, in the characters’ understanding and in readers. I hadn’t noticed how profound a point I’d made on this one page till now.
Visit Julie E. Czerneda's website.

The Page 69 Test: To Guard Against the Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 18, 2019

"Heart of Barkness"

Spencer Quinn is the bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling Bowser and Birdie series for middle-grade readers.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Heart of Barkness, and reported the following:
Heart of Barkness is the ninth Chet and Bernie novel. Bernie is the detective. Chet’s the K-9 school reject who narrates the stories. He is not a talking dog, not a human sporting a dog suit, but as purely canine as I can make him. If you know a dog or two, then you know there’s a narrative unreeling in their heads. That’s what’s on the page.

Can you read Heart of Barkness if you haven’t read any of the other novels in the series? That’s a question Chet would never ask.

The subjects covered on page 69 of Heart of Barkness are: the smell of puke; a hot dog eating contest; how to drink from a hose; shrinking aquifers; Bernie’s sweet uppercut; and the whereabouts of a has-been country music singer from long ago named Lotty Pilgrim. The dramatis personae are Chet, Bernie, and Shermie “Shoulders” Shouldice, a former perp once on the receiving end of the aforementioned uppercut, and now working as a bouncer at a crummy desert bar, where Lotty performed the night before. The question: Is Shermie willing – or even intellectually able – to help C&B track down Lotty?

There. Those are the facts. Is page 69 representative of the book as a whole? Yes! Although you’ll have to read it to see why. And if you do read it, you’ll discover that somewhat later, Lotty writes a Song For Chet. It has become a real song, downloadable from the usual sources and also on YouTube. The wonderful fiddle solo is by Gene Elders, the great violinist in George Strait’s band.
Visit Spencer Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Audrey (September 2011).

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Pearl (August 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 16, 2019

"Chimes of a Lost Cathedral"

Janet Fitch is an American author and teacher of fiction writing.

She is the author of the #1 national bestseller White Oleander, a novel translated into 24 languages, an Oprah Book Club book and the basis of a feature film, Paint It Black, also widely translated and made into a 2017 film, and an epic novel of the Russian Revolution, The Revolution of Marina M.

The journey that began with The Revolution of Marina M. concludes in Fitch's new novel, Chimes of a Lost Cathedral, in which passionate young poet, lover, and idealist Marina Makarova emerges as a woman in full during the transformative years of the Russian Revolution. Having undergone unimaginable hardship, she’s now at the height of her creative power and understanding, living the shared life of poetry--when the revolution finally reveals its true direction for the future.

Fitch applied the Page 69 Test to Chimes of a Lost Cathedral and reported the following:
Page 69 is a classic reversal of fortune in Chimes of a Lost Cathedral. Very representative. My character, Marina Makarova, a young poet, pregnant and adrift in the countryside in Civil War Russia, living in a relationship of convenience in a railroad town—has just reunited with her radical poet husband Genya Kuriakin, the commander of the Bolshevik agit-train Red October:
We had hard-bitten Bolshevik politicals, we had actors and journalists. And everyone was enlivened with determination, even vision. Hope unfurled like a flag—now I remembered it. No longer was I sidelined in Tikhvin or Ionia or East Mudhole, Wretched Hut Oblast, I was back on the train of the revolution, from which I’d somehow fallen, hauled aboard by Genya’s strong hand. So many things had come between us, I thought as I slept tucked under his chin in his compartment, listening to the song of the rails, clickety-clack... my life’s nightmare turn, the months at Ionia, my tenure as the barefoot bride—yet somehow I had risen, again breathing the shocking air of the Future, like Persephone walking into the sunshine after her months in the underworld, blinking to find that color had returned to the earth...

Genya, my Genya, sweet. Pulling me aboard his life just as he had in 1917. And away we rode, hurtling across Russia toward the front, where the civil war raged. Was I afraid? I was more afraid of Styopa, of the Tikhvin Women’s Club, dirt of a stalled mediocrity filling my mouth, packing my nostrils, muddying my eyes, as I disappeared into the ground. Our sailors and soldiers gave me strength... Racing across the green fields on the agit-train, I felt free. Like some crazy giantess, I could stand astride continents. I needn’t cut myself down to fit Styopa’s bedrame any longer.
Page 69 very much represents the passion with which Marina throws herself into the world, her deep craving to live freely, her embrace of the revolution and the idea of the Future. But it also represents her weakness from an ideological point of view—she is an emotional revolutionary, not a programmatic one. The politicals on the train see her very much as a ‘fellow-traveler’—Genya’s pregnant wife, a liability. But for the moment, she is quite characteristically filled with joy and with hope. She is someone for whom ‘settling,’ living a backwater life, makes her feel buried alive—the Persephone theme recurs throughout the book. This is her spring, but it will be winter again.
Visit Janet Fitch's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Revolution of Marina M..

My Book, The Movie: Chimes of a Lost Cathedral.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 15, 2019

"Hollow Kingdom"

Kira Jane Buxton's writing has appeared in The New York Times,, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Huffington Post, and more. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, and a husband.

Buxton applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Hollow Kingdom, and reported the following:
This is a fun and foreboding part of Hollow Kingdom. As it’s a disturbing conversation between a crow and an octopus, it is certainly representative of the book as a whole! S.T., our crow narrator has been searching Seattle for answers and a cure to help his owner, Big Jim (who’s eyeball unfortunately fell out of his head and who has taken up impersonating a rabid raccoon in the basement of his Seattle home). S.T. and his bloodhound buddy, Dennis, have made it to the Seattle Aquarium, which they find ramshackle and flooded. An enormous, oracular giant Pacific Octopus emerges from the murky depths and answers some of anxious S.T.’s many questions. Here, S.T. learns that his beloved human, Big Jim, and all of humanity are facing their extinction. He learns that there isn’t a cure for the virus that is eradicating our species. Onida gives him a new purpose, to save the “domestics”—the animals left behind as their human caretakers devolve and die out. The animals that humans loved and we loved back. He must decide whether this is his mission, whether he wants to save the creatures that are trapped inside homes, behind doors when there are no more fingers to unlock them… Page 69 is representative of Hollow Kingdom, featuring S.T. on his journey to combat the fall of humanity while saving as many animals as possible.
Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"The Churchgoer"

Patrick Coleman makes things from words, sounds, and occasional pictures. His debut collection of poems, Fire Season, was written after the birth of his first child by speaking aloud into a digital audio recorder on the long commute between the art museum where he worked and his home in a rural neighborhood that burned in the Witch Creek Fire of 2007. It won the 2015 Berkshire Prize and was released by Tupelo Press on December 1, 2018. His short-form prose has appeared in Hobart, ZYZZYVA, Zócalo Public Square, the Writer's Chronicle, the Black Warrior Review, Juked, and the Utne Reader, among others. The Art of Music, an exhibition catalogue on the relationship between visual arts and music that he edited and contributed to, was co-published by Yale University Press and the San Diego Museum of Art. Coleman earned an MFA from Indiana University and a BA from the University of California Irvine. He lives in Ramona, California, with his wife and two daughters, and is the Assistant Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego.

Coleman applied the Page 69 Test to his first novel, The Churchgoer, and reported the following:
On page 69, Mark Haines—the ex-Evangelical pastor now security guard protagonist of The Churchgoer—loses his job. Fired isn’t exactly right, but that’s how it feels to him; we have a tense bit of dialogue between Haines and a wealthy real estate investor, Gustafsson, who has decided to step up his security in the wake a shooting that left Haines’s co-worker dead. That death has already dropped the bottom out on Haines; he wouldn’t have called the guy a friend because he tries not to call anyone a friend, but they’d worked together for years and it picks at the scab of a deeper wound. Cindy, the drifter whom he’d let crash at his house, has already disappeared on him. But it’s here that Haines’ paranoia starts to appear—his willingness to see connections between disparate events—that sets him on his search for Cindy and puts him on a collision course with his past. Page 69 is not necessarily the most representative moment of prose, but it is a crucial moment in the plot as Haines’s apophenia carries him farther and farther afield across San Diego, the drug trade, and the Evangelical world he’d once called home. His reaction to Gustafsson here—his anger getting away from him—sets him on his path.
Visit Patrick Coleman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Churchgoer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"Keeping Lucy"

T. Greenwood is the author of thirteen novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won three San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks. Bodies of Water was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award.

Greenwood applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Keeping Lucy, and reported the following:
While Keeping Lucy is a novel about a mother’s fierce and heroic efforts to save her child from the horrific institution to which she was whisked away as a newborn, it is also very much about one woman’s staking claim to her own life.

Keeping Lucy is set in 1971. When we think of the early days of the women’s movement, it is the images of activism that we might conjure: the bra burning, the marches and protests. August 26, 1971 was the first Women’s Equality Day. However, on that day women still could not have a credit card in their name, get a legal abortion, be guaranteed to keep a job if they got pregnant, engage in military combat, or take legal action against sexual harassment. Additionally, in 1971, there was no such thing as spousal rape. These are basic rights denied to women, never mind all the other smaller ways that women were oppressed.

Ginny Richardson is not at the forefront of the movement, by any stretch of the imagination, but through the efforts to protect her daughter, she finds her own voice and autonomy and is able to stand up for not only her daughter for herself against the powerful men who have other plans for her and her daughter.

On page 69 of the novel, Ginny has defied her husband’s wishes and checked her two-year-old daughter out of the “school” where she has lived since birth. The first thought is to take her (along with Ginny’s son) to an amusement park, but she has limited cash in her pocketbook.
Ginny had brought along the cash she kept in the bread box, the weekly allowance Ab doled out, a practice that had initially made her feel strange, but to which she’d gradually grown accustomed if not resigned. When she’d still lived at home with her mother, she’d overseen their finances. She’d done the bills, written checks for all their monthly expenses. She was used to budgeting – if only for the two of them – and accustomed to having her own money. And while Ab was always generous, she could never quite get past the idea that she had to ask him for money simply for the things their family needed. She’d told him once how uncomfortable it made her, and the next day he’d offered to let her determine the amount. “Whatever you need,” he’d said, missing the point entirely.
In writing this novel, it was important to me not to demonize her husband. In many ways, he too falls prey to the patriarchal system. Ginny loves her husband, and I believe that Ab is a good man. They are both struggling against a system which has clear expectations for both men and women.
Visit T. Greenwood's website.

Writers Read: T. Greenwood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 12, 2019

"The Flight Girls"

Noelle Salazar was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where she's been a Navy recruit, a medical assistant, an NFL cheerleader and always a storyteller. As a novelist, she has done extensive research into the Women Airforce Service Pilots, interviewing vets and visiting the training facility—now a museum dedicated to the WASP—in Sweetwater, Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found dodging raindrops and daydreaming of her next book. Salazar lives in Bothell, Washington, with her husband and two children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Flight Girls, her first novel, and reported the following:
How appropriate that page 69 of The Flight Girls so perfectly encapsulates so much about Audrey's arc in this story.

Audrey Coltrane is a woman quite evolved for the era. She doesn't pine for a husband. Kids are not part of the future she imagines. All she wants is to fly - in every sense of the word - but mostly in planes. She craves freedom, self-sufficiency, and to live life on her own terms. But she is also a bit narrow-minded in the beginning of the story, unwilling to bend or see how life could be even sweeter were she to open herself up to love. I love how she stays true to who she is, but eventually gives in to the natural evolution of the human condition. To love and be loved isn't weakness or giving in - it is to see your wings spread fully, your glide becomes smoother, and your world that much bigger and fuller.
Visit Noelle Salazar's website.

Writers Read: Noelle Salazar.

My Book, The Movie: The Flight Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 10, 2019


Gail Carriger has multiple New York Times bestsellers and over a million books in print in dozens of different languages. She writes comedies of manners mixed with urban fantasy (and sexy stuff as G. L. Carriger). Her best known books include the Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School series. She was once an archaeologist and is fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.

Carriger applied the Page 69 Test to Reticence, the fourth and concluding volume of The Custard Protocol Series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Quesnel was amiable enough not to care about social standing. He swirled around with one of Lord Akeldama’s more impressively dressed drones.

Percy shrugged. Ah well, they were departing London soon. He suspected Rue of intentionally scandalmongering. If she could not produce the best wedding London ever saw, she could at least produce the most outrageous.

Only one other thing of note occurred, and had Percy not been on guard because of Aunt Softy’s presence he would never have noticed. Lord Akeldama, having finished their set, led Percy over to the punch bowl. As if Percy were an overtaxed young lady in need of refreshment. Percy trailed after him, obligingly.

Primrose met them, wringing her hands. “Well, that was an excessive display.” She said it to Percy, because he was the only one she could criticize to his face.

Percy stuffed a biscuit shaped like a hedgehog into his mouth as an excuse not to answer.

Tasherit, Rue, and Quesnel joined them.

“Progress never did come easily to high society, sweetling.” The vampire’s eyes crinkled in amusement.

“I hardly see how dancing can change the course of civilization,” snapped Prim.

“Give it a chance,” replied Rue, grinning.

“Come now, little one, it’s fun. Dance with me next?” Tasherit nudged up against Prim coquettishly.

Primrose batted at her lover in perturbation. “What if Mother finds out about this?”

Percy rolled his eyes. “Wasn’t that the point? We can’t all of us be accused of deviant behaviour at once.”

“Of course we can! This is Mother we’re talking about.” Prim looked at Lord Akeldama. “You’ll be blamed.”

“Indubitably, my pearl. Mr Lefoux, would you care to dance?”

“Charmed, I’m sure, but I think I want my bride back in my arms.”
What’s just happened prior to this is that a bunch of same sex couples have danced together at a large society wedding in a steampunk Victorian London, 1896. Percy’s friend Rue is responsible. It caused wide scale hysterics and a great deal of social discomfort that I use as a writer both for comedic effect and cultural commentary. Percy, the POV character, opens this page with his suspicions as to Rue’s motivations for all this drama, as well as those of others at the wedding.

The rest of the page has set up dialogue featuring different members of the crew of Percy’s airship. From an author’s perspective it’s there to show interactions between familiar characters (this is the 4th book in the series) as well as affection and familial support networks in operation.

This dialogue also sets up a major character confrontation for Percy to observe that reveals background history on one popular character that readers of my world have been requesting for a really long time. In fact, this scene will tie to the epilogue for this book, and indeed the ending for the entire series. Not to mention a few of my other works. In other words this page is the set up for a pretty significant fan service moment to come.

I swear it wasn’t intentional that this be page 69.
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Carriger's website.

The Page 69 Test: Prudence.

My Book, The Movie: Prudence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 9, 2019

"A Fire Sparkling"

Julianne MacLean is a USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the bestselling contemporary women’s fiction novel The Color of Heaven. She has sold more than 2 million books in North America alone, and her novels have been translated into many foreign languages. MacLean is a four-time RITA finalist with Romance Writers of America and has won numerous awards, including the Booksellers’ Best Award and the Book Buyers Best Award. She loves to travel and has lived on the west coast of New Zealand, in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, and in London, England. She lives in Nova Scotia with her husband and daughter, and is a dedicated member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada.

MacLean applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Fire Sparkling, and reported the following:
From page 69:
While I stood at the counter chopping leftover chicken, I felt like a fool for trusting Malcolm so completely. I’d leaped into the relationship without the slightest hesitation, believing that I’d hit the jackpot with a man like him. But how could I have missed that cheating side of him? Was there something wrong with me?

What a stupid question. Of course there was.

I froze and set the knife down, bowed my head, and closed my eyes to brace myself for the familiar wave of guilt that was about to hit me. I was well acquainted with it by now and could always feel it approaching. I could expect it to crash over me with a pounding force and make me relive the night of my mother’s death and accept the punishing weight of that memory, because no one should be allowed to get away with something like that and not pay for it somehow. Right?

I had been only nineteen when my mother died, and though everyone said it was the cancer treatments that killed her, I knew it was my fault.
Is this passage representative of the rest of the book? Honestly, no it’s not, and here’s why: The novel has a dual timeline with sections devoted to a female character in contemporary times, and other sections that take place in London and France during World War II. So, no matter what happens on page 69, it’s not going to be representative of the entire book, because the two time periods and situations are vastly different.

In this passage, the contemporary character (Gillian) is dealing with challenges in her life, as she just caught her fiancé cheating and she still harbors guilt over the death of her mother. These are typical issues for women’s fiction novels and most fans of that genre would probably be drawn to this. But Gillian is also trying to reach an understanding about her 96-year-old grandmother, who she just discovered had an affair with a high-ranking German Nazi at the start of the war and kept it secret all their lives. It’s quite possible that this man might even be Gillian’s real grandfather.

That question is the main thrust of the novel: uncovering the truth about what really happened during the war.

So, in this case, if a reader sampled this page alone, he or she would have no idea what the book was really about or where it goes from there. Fans of World War II fiction would probably take a pass on the book, based on this alone. So, I’m glad there’s a back-cover blurb to convey the bigger picture!
Visit Julianne MacLean's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 8, 2019

"The Miraculous"

Jess Redman has wanted to be an author since age six, when her poem “I Read and Read and Read All Day” appeared in a local anthology. It took a little while though. First, she did things like survive middle school, travel around the world, become a therapist, and have two kids.

But then finally, her childhood dream came true! Her middle-grade debut, The Miraculous, was released last month. Her second middle-grade novel, Quintessence, will be out on July 28, 2020.

Redman applied the Page 69 Test to The Miraculous and reported the following:
In this part of the story, Wunder is going to return to the cemetery for the third day in a row. On the first day, he was there for the funeral of his baby sister who passes away after just eight days of life. At the cemetery, he met Faye, a cape-wearing fan of the paranormal who recently lost her grandfather.

The next day, Wunder returned to the cemetery, which he calls “the most unmiraculous place of all.” You see, Wunder was a miracologist. He collected stories of inexplicable and magical events in a journal that he called The Miraculous. He was sure that his sister would be another of those miracles. But she wasn’t. And so Wunder went to the cemetery and left The Miraculous there.

And now, on page 69, Wunder wants to return to the cemetery. He left The Miraculous, but there are other things happening in the woods and in the graveyard—possibly magical things that he wants to know more about. And Faye, who is always up for a cemetery visit, wants to join him.

Wunder says he’s not trying to achieve enlightenment, but in many ways he is. Wunder wants to know why this terrible thing has happened. He wants to know how he can make sense of it. He wants to know what he can believe in now.

That’s what the story is about. It’s about finding the light. It’s about journeying alongside one another through sadness. It’s about how in this world of dark and bright, of grief and miracles, we are healed by connection.
Visit Jess Redman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

"An Unsettled Grave"

Bernard Schaffer is an author, full-time police detective, and father of two. As a twenty-year veteran police officer, he’s a court recognized narcotics expert, a graduate of the prestigious Top Gun Undercover Law Enforcement Training Program, child forensic interviewer, and possesses a Class A certification in the use of wiretaps. A child actor, Schaffer appeared in multiple television commercials, performances at the Walnut Street Theater (where his picture still hangs in one of the upper, darker corners), Saturday Night Live, and the Nickelodeon series Don’t Just Sit There. Schaffer is the author of multiple independently-published books and series, including Superbia, Grendel Unit, Guns of Seneca 6, and more. A die-hard supporter of the Philadelphia Union, he is proud to say that he’s never been ejected from a game. Yet.

Schaffer applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, An Unsettled Grave, and reported the following:
Hell no page 69 is not representative of the entire book. I hate that stupid test. I don't even like writing synopses or product descriptions of books.

My work in the Santero and Rein Thriller Series examines what happens to good people who willingly thrust themselves into the abyss. They absorb interactions with true evil. Child molesters. Serial killers. Predators. The toll it takes on them, psychologically, is something I've seen and felt firsthand. It changes you. Some of us get consumed by it, some of us find a way to carry on.
Visit Bernard Schaffer's website.

My Book, The Movie: An Unsettled Grave.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

"The Last Astronaut"

David Wellington, aka D. Nolan Clark, aka David Chandler is the author of over twenty novels of action, suspense, and drama.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Last Astronaut, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Last Astronaut is the exact moment the story kicks into high gear. Up until this point we’ve only been exposed to a cosmic mystery. A giant, alien rock is hurtling toward Earth. It hasn’t responded to any signals, and we can’t even tell if it’s being guided by an intelligent hand.

NASA sends up a spacecraft to meet the thing. So does a commercial spaceflight company, called KSpace. KSpace got there first, embarrassing NASA and maybe compromising the entire mission. Commander Sally Jansen, of the NASA ship, tries to contact the KSpace ship, to suggest they work together to plumb the alien ship’s secrets and mysteries.

Except now the KSpace ship isn’t responding to signals, either. It’s been hanging motionless near the alien ship for nearly a day, and there’s been no word that whole time.

Did something happen to the KSpace crew? Did they encounter the aliens? Are they still alive? Jansen has orders not to intervene or investigate. She’s got her own mission to carry out, and the fate of the KSpace astronauts is none of her business. It could even get NASA in legal trouble if she goes over there. There’s just one problem.

Twenty years ago, Sally Jansen was supposed to go to Mars. Her ship had to turn back after an accident left one of her crew dead. She has blamed herself, ever since, for what happened. She can’t live with more lives lost on her watch.

So on an EVA outside her own spaceship, she unhooks her safety line and starts flying over to the KSpace ship. She figures she’ll just look in the windows. Knock on the hatch, make sure they’re okay over there.

That’s what happens on page 69.

What she finds leads to a saga of fear and wonder. A story that’s equal parts science fiction and blood-curdling horror. It will take her and her own crew inside the alien spacecraft—a place beyond any human experience, a place no human being could comprehend. It’s a trip not everybody will return from, and one that will make Sally Jansen confront her darkest self—and how much of her humanity she’s willing to sacrifice, to find redemption.
Learn more about the book and author at David Wellington's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 5, 2019

"The Arrangement"

Robyn Harding is the internationally bestselling author of The Arrangement, Her Pretty Face, and The Party which was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel. She has also written four novels of contemporary women’s fiction, a young adult novel, and a comedic memoir with an environmental focus. Harding is the screenwriter and executive producer of the independent film, The Steps which premiered at TIFF and was the closing gala film at the Miami International Film Festival. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband, two kids, and a seven-pound dog with no teeth.

Harding applied the Page 69 Test to The Arrangement and reported the following:
The Arrangement is the story of a young art student in New York City, struggling to stay afloat. Desperate for money for rent, tuition, and to pay back her snarky roommates, Natalie Murphy goes online and finds a sugar daddy. On page 69, she wakes up after her first “sugar date”, embarrassed and hung over. Her nerves got the best of her and she drank way too much. Natalie’s pretty sure she didn’t get paid.

“Retrieving her battered canvas wallet, she opened it and peered inside. Three ones and a five. Disappointment crushed her chest. Why hadn’t she gotten the money up front, like Ava had suggested?”

This is an interesting representation of the story because a strong theme in the book is: can you buy love? When one person pays another for their “affection” (which is code for sex – at least eventually – on sugar dating sites), there is an inherent lack of respect. Many people in sex work are abused or degraded. But sometimes, people find real love despite the monetization of their relationship. There are a few famous examples of women marrying their sugar daddies. I recently had an Uber driver tell me that, when he was a successful businessman, he was a sugar daddy. When he lost everything, his sugar baby stuck by his side and is still with him today!

In The Arrangement, the sugar daddy and sugar baby have a complex relationship and don’t always view it through the same lens. It doesn’t help that he fails to mention the fact that he has a wife. And, of course, the book is a thriller. So, this sugar relationship is going to go very, very badly.
Visit Robyn Harding's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Robyn Harding & Ozzie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 4, 2019

"The Escape Room"

Megan Goldin is the author of The Escape Room, a corporate thriller about colleagues who get trapped in an elevator with a killer.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
Here's what's on Page 69 of The Escape Room.
"Everyone, say hello to Sara," Vincent stood behind me with his hand on my right shoulder in what he probably intended to be a reassuring gesture. The team was spread around a large table in the meeting room, immersed in work.

As Vincent's words registered, their eyes shifted from their laptop screens to me. I stood hesitantly in the doorway. I secretly cringed under their piercing scrutiny. It gave me the awkward new-girl-at school feeling.

"Hi Sara." I turned with relief in the direction of the first friendly voice in the room.

"I'm Sam." Sam sat on a black swivel chair with his arms crossed and a cynical twist to his lips that belied the friendly tone of his voice. He had closely cropped blond hair that you could tell would be curly if he let it grow, and large blue eyes that never missed a thing.
To give some context: Sara Hall meets her colleagues at Stanhope & Sons for the first time on this page which is the first of a chapter. On the next pages, we are introduced to the members of the team and given a sense of who they are in the pecking order. On the surface, it is a close-knit team, but underneath, there is plenty of tension and rivalry between the members. To succeed in their jobs, the team members all need to work together. Yet at the same time, they are playing a zero-sum game: their success must be at the expense of other members of the team. They can't all get promoted and they can't all get big bonuses so the team members are both teammates and bitter rivals.

The Escape Room is divided into two narratives. The first narrative is the narrative of what happens a few years after the scene described on Page 69 when the characters are trapped in an elevator during a team-building exercise. The second narrative is the perspective of Sara Hall, a colleague who worked with the team years earlier. Page 69 is representative of the Sara Hall perspective, which is essentially a flashback narrative that explains why the characters are trapped in the elevator and why things turn deadly when they learn each other's secrets. Woven together, both narratives tell the story.
Visit Megan Goldin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 3, 2019

"Malibu Bluff"

Janna King is a screenwriter, playwright, and director. She has written TV movies and series for Lifetime and The Hallmark Channel, King World and more. Her two short films, “Mourning Glory” and “The Break Up,” which she wrote, directed and produced, were official selections at several film festivals.

King's debut novel is The Seasonaires.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Malibu Bluff, and reported the following:
Malibu Bluff is the follow-up to my debut novel, The Seasonaires which centers on six young brand ambassadors for Lyndon Wyld, a fictional clothing line. These twenty-somethings are hired to live the dream life in beautiful spots around the world during vacation seasons. On Page 69, new seasonaires peruse the gorgeous Malibu bluff-top manse that’s been rented for them, divvying up oceanfront bedrooms. Mia is the sole holdover from the previous summer in Nantucket, having won the opportunity to return because she racked up the most social media followers. After the tragedy that occurred last season, Mia, a fledgling clothing designer, was hesitant to join the team in Malibu, so her chic tigress boss sweetened the deal with a contract for her own collection and an extravagant work space in the house.

Mia is simultaneously awed by the space and a bit uncomfortable that her accommodations are better than those of the other seasonaires, save for Brandon who is producing Lyndon Wyld’s digital channel. Brandon also happens to be the son of Lyndon’s media mogul business partner, so he is accustomed to preferential treatment like the studio that’s been set up for him. He teases Mia about her wholesome goal to productively “work.” Though he is ambitious in his own right, with a lot to prove to his famous father, he understands the crux of the seasonaires’ job.

“Work is play and play is work here. You know that,” he reminds Mia. His statement is true because the group is being handsomely paid to wear great clothes, bask in the sun, hang out at L.A.’s hot spots, and party with celebrities - making sure to post for their followers and fans. The digital channel has been added as extra entertainment, capturing all their exploits. However, like much of reality TV and social media, the line is blurred between what is real and what is staged. The novel explores the dangers of that ambiguity and the conundrum of image creation while offering up some juicy beach read drama.
Visit Janna King's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Janna King & Melvin and Olive.

The Page 69 Test: The Seasonaires.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 2, 2019

"The Chelsea Girls"

Fiona Davis began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a master's degree at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. She's a graduate of the College of William & Mary and is based in New York City.

Davis applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Chelsea Girls, and reported the following:
Boy did this test ring true. In the book, actress Hazel Ripley has been working on a play about her experiences during WWII as a USO tour performer, but is having trouble. She can’t seem to make it work, and her overbearing mother doesn’t help things any. They get into a big fight, and Hazel seeks refuge in the Chelsea Hotel, known for being a hotbed of political and artistic intrigue. There, she’s finally inspired, and thinks about what the Chelsea Hotel means to her:
This place was a living, breathing muse, one that coddled its guests and kept them warm while they scribbled away. Or, from the sound of the piano she’d heard in the hallway and the artwork in the lobby, composed or sang or painted. … For now, though, in the quiet of her room, she would take it page by page.
Visit Fiona Davis's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Address.

My Book, The Movie: The Masterpiece.

My Book, The Movie: The Chelsea Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 1, 2019

"Searching for Sylvie Lee"

Jean Kwok is the award-winning, New York Times and international bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee, Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in twenty countries and taught in universities, colleges and high schools across the world. An instant New York Times bestseller, Searching for Sylvie Lee was selected by Jenna Bush Hager for the Today Show Book Club, Emma Roberts for the Belletrist Book Club, O, The Oprah Magazine for its summer reading list and called “this summer’s book club sensation” by Entertainment Weekly.

Kwok applied the Page 69 Test to Searching for Sylvie Lee and reported the following:
From page 69:
The room simmered with flickering shadows. The lights were off to conserve electricity, as was the case in most Dutch homes. The heat was set low as well—Thick sweater day: why not wear one, it is better for the environment and your energy bill. My feet knew where to slip off and leave my shoes. My arms recalled the coat hangers that jangled against each other. My hand reached for the light switch half-hidden behind the old Vermeer print on the wall without a thought, even though I no longer had to go on tiptoe.

How I had dreaded the mornings, the time Helena and Willem were home before leaving for the restaurant and returning late in the night. The afternoons and evenings had been lovely, only me and Lukas and Grandma, eating our simple meals of fresh rice in the lamplight instead of the rich restaurant fare Willem and Helena brought back. Most days, I was in bed before they came home. I made sure of it.

But there had been good times with Helena too. Days when she took me shopping for dresses, bought me colored elastics for my hair. One winter, the Vecht River had frozen over. I was amazed to find it packed with people I recognized as neighbors. I hugged the shore, expecting the ice to crack and swallow everyone whole. It was one of my nightmares, to be trapped underneath the surface of the water. But earlier that morning, Helena had rooted around in the garage until she found pairs of skates for Willem, Lukas, me, and herself.
In some ways, this page 69 from Searching for Sylvie Lee is quite reflective of the novel because it’s told in Sylvie’s voice as she returns to the Dutch house where she grew up. Chinese American Sylvie had been sent as a baby to her Grandma, who had already emigrated from China to the Netherlands with their cousins Helena and Willem and their child Lukas, because Sylvie’s working class parents couldn’t afford to take care of her.

When the novel opens, we quickly find out that Sylvie has returned to the Netherlands to see Grandma, who is very ill, and that Sylvie has disappeared. Sylvie’s younger sister Amy, who has always been in the brilliant Sylvie’s shadow, has to pull herself together to try to find out what happened to Sylvie. As Amy flies to the Netherlands to find clues, we also hear Sylvie’s voice backdated by a month, so we can also see Sylvie’s experiences for ourselves.

This page shows the conflicted feelings Sylvie has as she returns to the house where her cousin Helena had been unkind to her as a child and the reader wonders what, if anything, Helena had to do with Sylvie’s disappearance.
Visit Jean Kwok's website.

--Marshal Zeringue